Authors: Chris Coppernoll
Tags: #Romance, #Small Town, #southern, #Attorney, #Renewal
To my mom, Lois Coppernoll,
for her love of reading and everything she does for others
In all the excitement of releasing my novel
, I didn’t stop to mention some very important people who made its publication, and this book’s, possible. A very special thanks to my agent, Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, for his professional representation, astute counsel, and personal career guidance.
An extraspecial thanks to Don Pape, Andrea Christian, and everyone at David C. Cook for creating an atmosphere where writers can produce their best work. May God richly bless you for your books that inspire readers the world over.
A big thanks to my editor, Stephen Parolini, who also edited
, for his skill and creativity evident on every page, and for bringing it all together.
Thanks forever to my daughter, Gray, for the creative person that she is. I love you.
Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ who makes all things new and all things possible.
April 22, 2008
~ One ~
You look lovely as can be
Are you lonely just like me?
At 5'8", Emma Madison would have described herself as too tall. That’s why she rarely dressed in high heels. She wore her dark auburn hair past her shoulders, something she’d done since childhood, thinking the length gave balance to the rest of her body. Emma looked beautiful that morning in the downtown Boston courtroom although she would never describe herself that way. She stood near the mahogany plaintiff’s table, beyond the waist-high wooden railing lawyers call “the bar” separating the area for official court proceedings from the spectators’ galley. Even though she hadn’t left the city since June, her face retained a trace of a summer tan, and her skin looked so clear and soft she could have passed as a model for skin cream. Emma’s eyes were her most striking feature—two brown orbs that somehow made her seem vulnerable and strong all at the same time. Their color appeared so dark it overshadowed her pupils, making the windows of her soul a deep pool to look, or fall, into.
To jurors, the thirty-four-year-old attorney for the plaintiff had been captivating to watch over the long August trial, but not for mere beauty alone. Emma expressed an intense passion for her client’s case that had in turn induced strong emotions in the jury. They’d been swept up in the drama of her client’s sympathetic story and felt themselves standing in Anna Kelly’s shoes, wondering how they’d feel in her circumstances, and knowing somehow they’d feel good about Emma as their attorney.
Her body language conveyed an easy openness when she cross-examined a witness. On good days, the jury grinned along with her good-natured humor. On difficult days, Emma displayed courtesy and grit; confident and comfortable in her own skin. She was clear and honest when she spoke, articulate in matters concerning the law, and always upbeat in spirit.
Emma’s client was a young, fair-skinned woman named Anna Kelley. Anna had approached the law firm of Adler, McCormick & Madison months earlier when her Northeast health-care provider, Interscope Insurance, dropped Anna from coverage without explanation during a difficult battle with breast cancer. Eventually it was revealed that Interscope had instituted a controversial new profit-making policy called “Retroactive Review.” Even though Anna had been approved for coverage and had been paying premiums with her employer for over two years, Interscope cut her coverage, claiming there were “inconsistencies” on Anna’s application after the hospital began submitting bills. As it turned out, there were inconsistencies on
of customer’s applications—inconsistencies discovered by Interscope only after one of their clients got sick.
On the final day of the trial, twelve earnest jurors watched from the jury box, listening to closing arguments from defense attorney Kenneth Blackman. In the end, the jury trusted Emma, agreed with the evidence she’d presented in her case, and returned from deliberation with a favorable verdict, and ultimately, a seven-million-dollar award.
“I didn’t know where to turn,” Anna confided to her after the trial. “I felt so hopeless and didn’t think there was anything I could do. I felt so small, you know? Like these were the big guys. They could do whatever they wanted.”
The courtroom bustled. Dismissed jurors headed back to the jury room, Judge Brown stood and collected papers from his bench, and Kenneth Blackman briskly exited the courtroom. Emma reached across the table to touch Anna’s sleeve.
do something, Anna. You stood up to those big guys, and you won.”
Anna smiled with the realization that all they’d set out to do had been accomplished. She leaned over and gave Emma a hug.
“I’m proud of you,” Emma said. “You could have run away, but you didn’t. That’s what most of us do when we have to face a giant.”
In the hallway, her colleague Colin Douglas congratulated Emma with a cordial embrace. Colin represented the new breed of smart, young, and hip Northeastern lawyers: the man in the Kensington suit with a racquetball-thin and money-clip-thick physique.
“You were incredible,” he said to her in a near whisper, letting Emma slip back out of his arms, the space between them returning to a more professional distance. “This calls for a celebration. What would you say to dinner tonight at 33’s? You’ve earned yourself a night of extravagance.”
“Frankly, I’d welcome any diversion from the endless stacks of depositions I’ve been reading.”
She smiled at Colin. “How come you always make me feel so special?”
“Because you are,” he said.
Emma tried to read his expression, but wasn’t quite sure where the smooth lawyer ended and the intriguing friend began. Colin was a man who drove too fast in his BMW and thrived in the accelerated pace of a seventy-hour workweek. She imagined him guarding his Sundays for tennis at a private country club or three-day weekends at Martha’s Vineyard.
They were both up-and-comers in Boston city law. His star shone a little brighter, though Emma suspected her Interscope victory might raise her own status a notch or two. Did he picture the two of them together? Could she?
“Then it’s a date,” he said. “I’ll make a reservation for seven thirty.”
“It makes me nervous when you use the word
. You know I think of us as just friends, don’t you?”
Colin reeled back on the heel of his Allen-Edmonds dress shoe.
“Emma, can I help it if only one of us has seen the light?”
“Maybe we should put dinner on hold until one of us changes his light switch.”
“Congratulations, counselor.” Robert Adler stepped into their circle and patted Emma on her shoulder. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed seeing Kenneth Blackman crushed this morning.”
The seventy-five-year-old senior partner of Adler, McCormick & Madison crowed at the taste of sweet victory.
“He had a tough case to argue,” Emma said. “Interscope shouldn’t be dropping clients just because they become ill.”
“Blackman’s the one who’s going to be ill when he sees the repercussions of losing this case,” Adler smirked. “I expect news of your victory to reverberate through courtrooms and cocktail parties all over Boston and New York.”
“Robert’s right, Emma. This morning you slew Goliath,” Colin said. “To the victor goes the spoils. All Blackman can expect to walk away with is a headache.”
“Before long,” Adler continued, “we can expect some of those clients who’ve been hiring Blackman & Lowe to come knocking at our door.”
Robert Adler pressed his right eye shut in a slow, wrinkled wink. He turned to walk back down the courthouse’s cold marble hallway, leaving Emma and Colin alone again outside the courtroom doors.
“Well, my boss seems happy, and Anna’s gotten a verdict she was hoping for. Today has all the markings of a great day.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Colin said, now walking beside her down the corridor. “Now that Anna has what she wants, and the firm’s getting what it wants, what about you, Emma? What do you want?”
Emma stopped and pursed her lips as she thought about the question. Colin watched Emma’s face intently.
“Oh, I don’t know, a vacation. Time to just slow down, relax, and dream awhile.” She sighed. “It’s the scourge of the age I guess. Too much stress and not enough time to dream.”
The thought of a stress-free getaway pleased Emma. Colin picked up on it right away.
“Listen, I have a friend who owns a beach house in Costa Rica,” said Colin. “Why don’t we fly down there this weekend––just as friends, of course––and get away for a while.”
“Now look at who’s dreaming,” Emma quipped. “And by the way, how
you manage to play hooky and be in court this morning?”
“Officially, I’m not. I was scheduled to be in court downstairs. One delay from Judge Stalling later, and I was on my way up to see you spike the ball. And for the record, Emma, I’m no dreamer. The plans I make are very practical. When I see two things that go together––like your elevated stress levels and a private beach chair in Costa Rica for example––I move in to close the deal.”
Colin’s cell phone buzzed. He glanced down at the number on the screen.
“Sorry, Em. Gotta take this.”
Colin stepped away from Emma, placing his cell phone against his left ear and covering the right with the palm of his hand.
Emma understood. She watched him as he walked away, knowing all too well the practice of law and its demands on attorneys to create billable hours.
Colin’s call reminded Emma it had been more than an hour since she’d checked her own messages. She reached in her attaché and retrieved a sleek, charcoal-colored cell phone. Emma powered it up with the push of a button, and stared at the blue backlit screen. Two missed calls. Two messages. The first number she recognized from the firm. The other was unfamiliar except for the area code.
The call was from a place as far away from Boston as you can get. Or as Emma once thought of Boston, a place as far away from Juneberry, South Carolina, as one can go. But who had called her?
She tucked the thin cell phone under her chin the way she sometimes did when deep in thought, trying to solve a riddle her skillful mind could sort out given enough facts and time. She pushed the message button.
“Hi, Emma? It’s your cousin Samantha. I have news about your dad. Please call me back right away.”
Emma wandered around a large, marble pillar while she listened to the message, then stood in the rainy daylight of a paned-glass window overlooking a landscaped city park.
Emma felt a cruel lump of fear choking out her breath. Her hands shook as she flipped up the lid on her phone, scrolled down to the mystery number, Samantha’s number, and pushed Send
Pick up, pick up.
The phone rang once, twice. Then she heard a woman’s soft Southern accent on the other end of the line.
“Hello, this is Emma. Samantha, what’s going on?”
She meant for her voice to sound calm and controlled, but it had cracked as she’d said the word
“Emma, I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I had to get in touch with you. I have some bad news.”
Emma suddenly felt as cold as the marble columns in the alcove.
“It’s your father. He’s had a heart attack.”
“How … how is he?”
“We don’t know, honey. An ambulance came to the house this morning and took him to Wellman Medical. The doctors have him in surgery right now.”
“Oh my gosh.”
“I’m so sorry, hon.”
Emma turned and looked for Colin. She found him on the other side of the crowded corridor near the banister overlooking the first floor. He was standing with his back to her, still talking on his cell. In a room filled with people, she’d never felt so alone.